It’s a common dilemma. You’ve been prescribed medication, taken it as directed, but still have some left after finishing your course of treatment. Or maybe you’re cleaning out your medicine cabinet and have found some expired medications hiding in the back corner.

What’s the Correct Way to Get Rid of Your Old Medicine?

“The proper disposal of prescription medication is crucial to help reduce harm from accidental exposure or intentional misuse,” said Joie Damico, Director of Pharmacy for Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center.

Patients have options when it comes to the disposal of unused or expired medication, including:

  • The Drug Enforcement Administration does regular “Take-Back” days, which provides an opportunity to safely dispose of prescription medicine and other household hazardous waste.
  • Some pharmacies participate in the “Dispose My Meds” program, which offers patients a safe place to dispose of unused or expired medications.

No Take Back Program Nearby

When “take back” programs are not immediately available, the Federal Drug Administration recommends to:

  1. Place pills in a sealable container, such as a plastic bag.
  2. Mix with coffee grounds, sawdust, kitty litter, etc.
  3. Seal the bag and/or container and place in the trash.
  4. Remove personal information from empty medicine containers before recycling.

To Flush or Not to Flush?

There are a small number of medications that should be flushed, only if other take back options are not available. Most medications should not be flushed unless it’s specifically instructed on the label.

“By properly disposing of prescription medications, patients are taking the responsible step to keep members of our community safe,” said Damico.


Find a “Take Back” Program in Montgomery County, MD